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Patricia's story

The sexual abuse Patricia’s two brothers experienced as teenagers continued to have effects on the extended family decades later. ‘Our family went from being a conventional Catholic family, with all the kids involved in church activities to what we are now, which is devastated.’

Patricia told the Commissioner that her brother, Gerald, was abused by a boy three years his senior when he was in the scouts and aged 13.

‘He went off the rails, and he’d often run away. Once he rode his bike 150 kilometres to get away from home. No one knew at the time what was wrong. Over his life, he’s had a history of violence, drug and alcohol abuse, and failed marriages and relationships.’

Another of Patricia’s brothers, Brian, disclosed to her in the late 1990s, when visiting from interstate. He asked Patricia to drive him to the Christian Brothers’ school where Brother Fallon had abused him in the 1970s.

‘He went in and told the principal about the abuse, and the principal asked him if he wanted to take it any further. He said he didn’t, that he just wanted them to know so they’d put things in place to look out for the children.’

Patricia didn’t know if the school subsequently took any action. Brother Fallon died in a nursing home in the 2000s.

In the 1980s, Patricia entered a convent to become a nun. She left after three years, married and subsequently had children. She maintained a strong Catholic faith and continued to attend church, though she struggled with elements of the hierarchy’s conservatism and what she saw as its inability to acknowledge child sexual abuse.

‘They say it’s isolated, only one or two people, but it’s bigger than they want to admit. My best friend at school, my two brothers and my cousin were abused by church people, and the priest who ran our youth group was jailed for child sex offences. I worked overseas with the church, and I’ve seen deviant sexual behaviour by priests there. Even if they say it’s a small number, it’s the cover up and duplicity that concerns me.’

In the 1990s, Patricia’s mother was told that Brian and Gerald had been sexually abused. ‘My mother believes steadfastly in the Catholic Church,’ Patricia said. ‘She says, “If the Pope says something I’ll believe it. If he changes then I’ll change”.

‘Even so, she said there were sufficient warning signs with some of the priests and brothers for the Church to do something early on. She’s angry that those people used the cover of the Church to access children.’

In her local parish, Patricia said a recently appointed priest had installed an old-style confessional box, but that the school principal wouldn’t allow any of the children to go into it. ‘I’m still a person who believes in reform and I define myself as a Catholic, but it’s problematic.’

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